Obama to allow 'hardship exemptions' from individual mandate
The Department of Health and Human Services issued a bulletin on Thursday night outlining the latest "tweak" for Obamacare.
In essence, if your plan was cancelled because of Obamacare coverage mandates, you will be able to either keep that plan for a year if your insurance company and state agree to offer it, or you can apply for a 'hardship exemption' from the indivudal mandate.
This second change, prompted by a group of Democratic senators - most of whom face tough reelection campaigns next year - goes substantially further in accommodating people upset about losing their policies. The latest rule will allow consumers with a canceled health plan to claim a "hardship exemption" if they think the plans sold through new federal and state marketplaces are too expensive.
The ability to get an exemption means that the administration is freeing these people from one of the central features of the law: a requirement that most Americans have health insurance as of Jan. 1 or risk a fine. The exemption gives them the choice of having no insurance or of buying skimpy "catastrophic" coverage.
Until now, the law allowed people younger than 30 to buy catastrophic coverage - and exception to the law's benefit rules in an effort to attract young adults who have been particularly prone to avoiding coverage in the past. The law also has allowed hardship exemptions for people 30 and older who could not afford the regular coverage.
It is unclear how many people facing canceled policies will choose no insurance, bare-bones coverage or a plan through the insurance exchanges that meet new federal standards. But the prospect that healthy people with canceled insurance might opt out of the new health plans set off immediate alarm among insurance industry leaders, who already have been worried whether enough people who are inexpensive to cover will sign up.
"This latest rule change could cause significant instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers," said Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's main trade group.
Another health insurance official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he lacked authorization to discuss the matter publicly, pointed out that the hardship exemption also gives one group the ability to buy coverage whenever they want, rather than during annual open-enrollment periods. As a result, he said, more people might not buy insurance unless they get sick.
Federal health officials estimated Thursday that, of all the people whose substandard health plans have been canceled, less than half a million have not chosen new coverage. But they acknowledged that they were not certain.
Obamacare's edifice is crumbling. The door is now wide open to offer exemptions to others who are being adversely affected by Obamacare, which, as the insurance executives are pointing out, is going to undermine the financial structure of the law, thus putting everyone at risk.
The president is flailing about trying to put out a forest fire with a tin cup. The more he "tweaks" the law, the more uinfair and unworkable it becomes. He is unconcerned about the effect of the law down the road - only the immediate political impact of some of Obamacare's gargantuan errors. This will inevitably lead to more "tweaks" as the original "tweaks" cause problems in the future.
At some point, there will be no more "tweaking" and a reckoning will occur. The president may be laying the groundwork for the destruction of his "signature achievemnet."